PUT A LIDDY ON IT
Bob Dole has seriously ventured into his wife Elizabeth’s North Carolina U.S. Senate campaign for the first time, and the White House is concerned. “She’s doing so well, better than anyone might have expected,” says a White House political source. “We just hope he doesn’t screw things up.”
You’d think that a man who had run for president two times and served in Congress as a leader for more than two decades wouldn’t be a bother, especially for a wife running in her first real electoral office (let’s not count that presidential bid, okay?).
But Bob Dole does worry some. For one thing, he tends to become increasingly moderate when talking to the press. For another, he’s already commented that his wife’s campaign might provide a little “payback” for him. Thus some White House and Republican National Committee staffers are wondering if Bob Dole’s entrance could undercut what Elizabeth Dole’s campaign has achieved so far.
“She wasn’t against gun control before she returned to North Carolina, she wasn’t pro-life before she went to North Carolina. She’s trouncing Democrats in the polls,” says an RNC advance staffer for the mid-Atlantic states. “She’s walked her own ideological minefield and come out the other side with both legs intact. We’d hate to see her take some bad advice from Senator Dole.”
And who can blame them? Bob Dole’s campaign style on the national stage has been knocked repeatedly over the years. Too stiff, too obliging, wishy-washy on controversial issues. The concern is that his presence and public comments in North Carolina could alienate the strongly Christian, pro-gun ownership base that has taken to his wife, if for no other reason than she is a Republican and has said the right things.
“If he were to somehow say that his wife isn’t really pro-life, that she’s more moderate, or that she believes some gun should be banned, or if he waffles on some other issue he shouldn’t be getting his nose into, you know the media down there, the Democrats will jump,” says the RNC staffer. “We’d prefer that he stay away.”
The nervousness about Dole is all the more confusing because his actual voting record would indicate that he, too, could probably run and win in the Tarheel State. “Maybe it’s just something about big campaigns, tight races that screw him up,” the White House staffer mulls.
While New Hampshire Republican Sen. Bob Smith is crowing about a recent Granite State Poll that showed he’d cut into the lead of Republican challenger Rep. John Sununu in their primary race, the Republican National Committee and the White House remain certain that Sununu will hold his double-digit lead over Smith and prevail in the August primary election. “We’re not worried about the poll,” said an RNC pollster. “Smith isn’t going anywhere but home, or maybe into a nice diplomatic post if the president is in a good mood.”
Part of the reason for everyone’s nonplused reaction is that Sununu continues to hold a 10-percent lead in head to head polling with likely Democratic challenger, Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. Moreover, the Granite State Poll that Smith now loves to point to has a margin of error of more than four percent. “Smith knows better than to trust the polls too much,” says the RNC staffer. “He should just focus on the race and keep his head down.”